Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry appear to be leading a parade of GOP presidential candidates in front of a marching band playing, "Onward Christian Soldiers."
Perry insists that evolution and global warming are merely theories among many theories and implies that creationism should be taught equally with evolution in America's schools. Perry says there have been many climate changes since God created the Earth. "God is how we got here," Perry said. Bachmann is right in the thick of things, with beliefs as religiously oriented as Perry's.
Now I don't know how you feel about this, but to me it is frightening. To have someone else's religious philosophy shoved into my face is objectionable, to say the least. If either one of these Christian candidates is elected president of the United States, it is reprehensible that their personal religious beliefs will color all their decisions, affecting all the people.
It concerns me deeply because as a Lakota man, born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, I saw firsthand how a religious sect can come on to my homelands and have a lasting impact upon my traditional spiritual beliefs, my language and my culture.
If creationism it to be taught alongside evolution (and this is not so far-fetched), how does one decide which source of creationism is appropriate? If the theories of creationism are considered for schools, would the creationist beliefs of Muslims, Jews or Buddhists be included? Every Native American tribe has its own story of creation, and to those traditional believers, their creation ideologies are just as powerful as the Christian creation story is to those who attempted to usurp our beliefs.
Global warming is nothing to scoff at. It is true that Maka Ina (Mother Earth) has been through many climate changes in the billions of years that it has circled the Sun, and all these changes came about in a natural procession. But it has been in the past 100 years that these changes have so rapidly accelerated. It is not a political disaster that follows global warming, but a human disaster. Everything that the international industrial revolution pumped into the air and the water on this planet had to go somewhere.
Pitting scientist against scientist or berating the lessons of global warming taught in America's schools does nothing to address the problem; it only creates confusion. The indigenous people of the Western Hemisphere were the keepers and protectors of the environment for thousands of years, and when the white settlers first cast their eyes on the lands the Indians had preserved and protected, they used the word "pristine" to describe it.
There is nothing that can describe the rapid destruction of America's ecosystem better than the systematic destruction of the American bison, widely known as the buffalo. From a population of over 60 million in the 1820s, the buffalo was reduced to just 800 individuals by 1895. This mass destruction of an animal so vital to the survival of the Native people is unprecedented. To eradicate the food, clothing and spiritual source of survival for the Native people was a well-thought-out plan by the United States government seeking to eliminate a people standing in the way of Manifest Destiny. And, believe it or not, this path of destruction was led by priests and ministers bringing word of their God to the West.
The religious conversion of the Native people accelerated the government process of assimilation faster than armies. It also helped to open the lands of the indigenous people to settlement through hook and crook.
Watching political candidates for the highest office in this land standing on podiums espousing their individual religious beliefs as gospel for all of us takes me back to those days when priests and ministers led the assault on the indigenous people, using the Bible as a weapon of mass destruction.
I once heard an Indian man say about the beatings he and other Native Americans received at the hands of the Jesuit priests in a Catholic boarding school, "I probably deserved it." Wrong! No child deserves to be brutally beaten by a Catholic priest, for any reason. To think differently is the epitome of religious brainwashing.
A person's religion is a private thing and should never be used to enhance a political point of view. The first time I recited the Pledge of Allegiance and came across "One Nation under God," I was nonplussed. That was not the pledge I grew up reciting, and afterwards I discovered that it was a revision of the original. Politicians had inserted the change.
If a politician believes in God, that is fine and dandy, but it is a belief that I really don't care to hear about. Keep your religion and your God to yourself, because it has no place in bipartisan politics in America.
© 2011 Unity South Dakota
Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, is President of Unity South Dakota. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard with the Class of 1990. His weekly column won the H. L. Mencken Award in 1985. He was the founder of The Lakota Times, Indian Country Today, Lakota Journal and Native Sun News. He can be reached at UnitySoDak1@knology.net.
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